The editor of my first book suggested I call it The Final Choice (1985). I thought the title was overdramatic and a bit grandiose. I did in part write the book in response to what seemed like the growing threat of nuclear war. in 2017, Jonathan Beecher of White Crow Books, offered to reprint the book. I was thankful to do so on condition that I make some changes, including the subtitle, to Death or Transcendence? The book is a question. In 2017, and more so in 2023, I no longer feel the title is overdramatic or grandiose. It should by now be clear that as a species there are several ways we are in fact facing finality.
The risk of nuclear war is at a new high today. The Union of Concerned Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds before Midnight. The closest yet to midnight on record. It should be known by now; the U.S. has had numerous close calls, nearly igniting major nuclear calamity, not facts the government would like to publicize. But that is only one sword of Damocles hanging over us. There is another: manmade climate chaos, subverting and destroying planetary life, a millions species threatened with extinction. Without universal cooperation toward controlling the output of the gases heating up the planet, world civilization will take a major hit. We need to reduce our carbon footprint, to use another metaphor.
Nature is responding to centuries of eco-assault and exploitation; she’s hitting us with chaotic outbreaks of heat waves, draughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods of biblical girth. Already, as I write, genocidal wars of all types and degrees of barbarism are playing out on the world stage, with thousands upon thousands of totally innocent women, children, old and sick men—starved, beaten, blasted into extinction. So, nature is in an uproar, and we can blame modern greed, ruthlessness and technology. Nature is poisoned, polluted, infested with chemicals and seas of garbage, and all this heated up in a great cauldron, causing all the ripples of disaster and havoc.
Humans have set forces into motion that must be stopped; if not, we can look forward to a very large, unprecedented, crash. But for many it is near impossible to break from the trance of normal existence. And yet, however catastrophic the outlook, there are rational and humane ways we can avert the two end-time scenarios.
It is also a fact that throughout history we find accounts of people who become shamans, magicians, poets, dreamers, artists of many kinds. From such folk we hear stories of altered states of mind and soul, states that open to wider worlds of insight, joy, and behavior.
Hatred and destructive hostility, the rationales of murder and mayhem, occur in a mental space where humane argument, justice and compassion do not resonate. For these ideas to come to life something new and fundamental is needed: a deep change in the quality and nature of personal consciousness. There are states of consciousness qualitatively richer and profounder than our so-called normal states. These many-layered experiences are receptive to the latent unifying forces within us.
It’s as though there are various lenses we can activate to mediate our experience. Everyday consciousness is the universal lens that mediates our concrete, material everyday interactions.
But other psychic lenses are available, more suited to interaction with our extraordinary, transformative potentials. An obvious and crucially interesting example is dreaming. But there is a complex of mental lenses that open us to a range of experiences of enormous value.
The first edition of The Final Choice was inspired by the looming potential of nuclear apocalypse. The same concern is operative today as I pointed out above. The difference today is the second growing menace of climate Armageddon. It doesn’t take much to see how these two evolving world dangers criss-cross and play off each other in ways that amplify the downward spiral.
Scientific technology, as servant of capitalist consumerism, has been used to exploit and ravage the natural world; but that is just half the menace, it also threatens global nuclear destruction. In sum, the situation is unprecedented. Humans have created conditions that point to the increasing possibility of species suicide. Destructive potential is in full gear; indeed, it’s thriving, profitable and well-attuned to the needs of war-mongers. In bloody contrast, the human skills conducive to peace, compassion, and justice are stunted and limping all over the place.
As far as I can see, it will take a miracle to get through the global cataclysm humans have set into motion, and that we’re heading toward full steam. Still, I want to think about what may be possible, however a long shot it may seem. Let me finish here with a summary of the chapters in The Final Choice where I try to sketch a map of the life-enhancing potentials we may hopefully draw upon.
The paradigm for survival has three parts, the first being about the crisis. The essence of the crisis is caught in the Hindu notion that we are at the end of the Kaliyuga—the age of conflict. The nature of the crisis is revealed by evidence—much of it horrifically gross—of murderous wars, large and small; racism; occupation, terrorism, dehumanizing laws; indigenous reservations; localized but not explicitly illegal forms of prejudice; bullying with consequent resentment; oppression, alienation; free-floating hatred, and so forth.
The second part notes the high degree of unpreparedness for coping with the crisis. But there are potential inner resources available for us to explore. Science, however, has been mainly successful in understanding and exploiting physical nature. But we have also amassed knowledge of psychic and mystical phenomena. Psychic phenomena enlarge the scope of human capacity. They provide extrasensory modes of perception and consciousness, which in principle enlarge our cognitive and emotional consciousness. Our temporal awareness is subject to expansion. Our motor capacities (mind over matter) promise to evolve in extraordinary ways, for example, toward levitation and healing capacity to a supernormal degree. Finally, we come to a particularly revolutionary phenomenon that a new science of transcendence will feature.
ESP and PK would entail extensions of our cognitive and physical powers. But there is a class of mental phenomena that may include those expansions but is different in important ways. In the family of altered states, the mystical consciousness is the highest and greatest. It is ineffable, total union with transcendent love. This is the experience that transforms the angst-ridden ego into a boundless forest of bliss. It is the one psychic potential we most need if we hope to survive the twofold global catastrophe we’re rapidly heading toward. It is called empathy, the ability to extend our consciousness into other sentient beings, humans, other animals, and the entire natural world.
This is the keystone to saving ourselves from ourselves. More coming about how we can make it happen.
The Final Choice: Death or Transcendence? by Michael Grosso is published by White Crow Books.